The rivalry between Temple and Xavier continues to grow year-by-year, and at this rate, it doesn’t look like it will slow down anytime soon.
Following the Owls’ dismantling of the Flyers Sunday at the Saint Joseph’s Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse, No. 3 Xavier went out and upset No. 2 George Washington, 63-59.
With 6-foot-5 sophomore Amber Harris and 6-foot-6 freshman Ta’Shia Phillips dominating in the middle, George Washington could not keep its premiere bigs on the court in the second half due to foul trouble.
Junior Jessica Adair, who stands 6-foot-4, was limited to 20 minutes, as she picked up her fourth foul less than two minutes into the second stanza. Two minutes later, her twin sister Jazmine, who looks up an inch at her sister, also picked up her fourth.
Even when the taller Adair, who scored 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting, convinced coach Joe McKeown into leaving her on the court, her consistent foul trouble hurt her defensive prowess.
“Having four fouls is tough,” she said. “But I didn’t want to get out of the game, so [on defense], I had to play off a little.”
It was apparent that McKeown was unhappy with the fouls called on his center, but he was reluctant to say much.
“I’ve got to coach two weeks from now, so I’m going to be careful what I say. I need to show up for those games” he said, predicting that his Colonials will be participating in NCAA Tournament play. “It’s difficult being in foul trouble the whole game against a team with Xavier’s front line.”
McKeown also refused to give Xavier too much credit.
“I congratulate Xavier, they played a great second half,” McKeown said. “They didn’t play a great game, but they played a great second half.”
But the only thing Xavier cares to be given credit for is a victory.
“We really wanted this win, so we decided to just buckle down and just play hard defense and talk and just do all the stuff that we need to do to pull out the win,” Phillips said. “I just went out and did what coach asked me to do, which is play hard the entire time, talk with the teammates, work as a team, get some rest, [and I] just did everything that needs to be done for a big game like this.”
Harris summed up the game in six words: “We pulled out a great win,” she said.
The same way the Muskateers avenged a 56-46 loss at the hands of George Washington on Jan. 13, Xavier realizes that Temple will be looking to retaliate against them Sunday in the championship game at 5 p.m.
“We’re not going to take anything lightly. [Temple’s] going to come out hard and ready to play,” Harris said. “We’re going to try to match their intensity and just go out there and try to get another win.”
“Temple’s had a terrific season,” Xavier coach Kevin McGuff added. “They’re talented, athletic and extremely well coached, so I think it’s going to be a great match-up, and a very difficult one for us.
“They’re a great defensive team, they really rebound the ball, [and] they play aggressively. We’re going to have to find ways to score and keep them off the glass.”
Owls coach Dawn Staley remembers the 64-55 loss at the Cintas Center on Feb. 9 well.
Before departing the Fieldhouse, Staley said, “We have the opportunity to avenge both of our losses.”
Jeff Appelblatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.